Art as Resistance: Standing Against Tyranny

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Guernica, 1937, Picasso.

Testimony at City Hall on February 28, 2018

Art as Resistance State in Trump’s America

by Debbie Officer

AV Book Review Editor

I begin with a quote from Timothy Synder, author of Tyranny :Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century
“As they knew, Aristotle warned that inequality brought instability, while Plato believed that demagogues exploited free speech to install themselves as tyrants.”

For more than twenty years, African Voices Magazine has been the sounding board for those who wouldn’t be published, or have their photos, films, or paintings viewed by a mainstream audience. It has always been our fundamental mission to give a platform to those who would be otherwise silenced, and even more so now. At this period when there is so much uncertainty in our society about funding for the arts, libraries, and education, we serve as a beacon for artists in the African Diaspora and beyond.

At a time when the current resident in the White House seems hell-bent on dividing this beautiful country that I grew to love as an immigrant girl, I know for sure that it will be the dancers, musicians, writers, film makers, photographers, painters, sculptors, and poets who will make sure we continue to rise.

I now reflect on an evening in a small Tuscan town several years ago, when I attended a ‘fair’ with my oldest daughter. Someone handed her a poster of Guernica. This was painted 81 years ago by Pablo Picasso as a tribute to the Freedom Fighters during the Spanish Civil War, it still stands as a symbol to so many around the world who will never bow to tyrannical regimes. As inspiring as that moment was for me personally, I think so many years later, it is imperative that arts organizations and individual artists continue to educate, advocate, and use their work as a medium to motivate and inspire the public.

As an immigrant, a writer, an educator, a visual artist, and a mother, I speak on behalf of African Voices Magazine as an organization and as a voice in the resistance against censorship, defunding of the arts, and tyrannical and racially divisive government. In closing, I would like to dedicate this testimony to Elizabeth Catlett and Shirley Chisholm, two courageous women whose example should continue to inspire us all in the ongoing fight for equity and justice.

In the words of the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda,
“Solemn is the triumph of the people,
With the passage of their great victory.”

Thank you.


African Voices Book Review Editor Debbie Officer with her daughter Ella and City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo at a City Hall hearing on arts as resistance in the era of Trump on Feb. 28, 2018.


Debbie A. Officer is a Brooklyn-based writer and educator. She has worked as a freelance journalist for The New York Amsterdam News, The New York Village Voice, Sage woman Magazine, and Black Issues Book Review. Ms. Officer has been the recipient of several arts grants from the Brooklyn Arts Council, serving as an arts in education instructor throughout the borough. She is currently the Book Review Editor for African Voices.

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